Celebration Day for Impressions of the Past

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At last this wonderful project has come to its end.  To celebrate the months of workshops, walks and community, we held a celebration party at Poles Coppice, the site of the Oak Palisade and the Poetry Bench.

Around 55 people turned out to share food, fun, stare over at the Iron Age ramparts on Earl’s Hill, find the clay roundels they’d designed, and the words they wrote.  We read a few poems, and crowded round the installations.

Over 150 people contributed to ‘Impressions of the Past’ – thank you to each and every one, and special thanks from Ruth and me to Huw, Mike, Betul, Bob Gibson, Jim Sadler, Nigel McDonald and Joe Penfold.

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A Spell for Haymaking

Today I was The Spellwright for the Hay Meadow Festival in a cool and beautiful field below The Stiperstones in Shropshire.  Whenever I looked up I saw people scything meadow grasses, tossing haybales over a high bar with a pitchfork, making flowers, drinking beer, listening to a spot of jazz and swing.  All very lovely.

Meantime, I wrote spell after spell, for people of all ages, requesting everything from help to catch a Shetland pony to spells for invisibility, for wings, for a tree house, for Silliness… Here’s a small selection.

Spells & Hexes, popular as ever

 

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Last weekend, I ran a Spellwright’s Stall for Ludlow Medieval Fayre, at which I provided Spells & Hexes to an astonishingly eager public. Lovely event! I wore a dubious medieval costume (blanket, kilt pin and big hat) and never looked up for four hours – except once to quell a squabble in the queue about whose turn it was.

People of all ages told me what they wanted, and then to a greater or lesser extent we collaborated on the spell, which I wrote on the parchment in my best italic.  Then we lit a stick of red sealing wax, and they applied the stamp.  Heads craned.  Several people asked me if the spells would work.

It was such fun that I’m keen to do it again – so if anyone you know needs a Spellwright for an event, then I’m your inky-fingered poet…

‘Around the Crow the weather’

It rained on Welshpool Poetry Festival, but didn’t dampen this great little celebration of words in Mid Wales.  I read with Gillian Clarke on the final evening, and am now wallowing in the delights of her new Picador Selected Poems.

But before that I ran a workshop for children.  Here’s a few pics and some very promising lines from a group of focused and inventive young poets.

Welshpool Crow wshop Jun2016 (3)

Do a Pen 2 Mic workshop here in Ludlow!

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Pen 2 Mic will see you write a brand new poem and perform it on the same day. Focusing on places and locations that mean something special to you, you’ll create a new work and learn some vital performance tips before taking to the mic.

Fun and informal, Pen 2 Mic is a two hour afternoon session focusing on writing, editing and mic training followed by an evening public performance.

Run by the friendly and energetic Wordshoppers, Jean Atkin and Liz Hyder, Pen 2 Mic will help build your confidence and experience in performing and reading your own work to an audience.

Wednesday 1st June

2-4pm followed by an evening performance at 7.30pm.

£10.

Please book your tickets by calling Appletree on 0845 548 5449 or email hello@the-appletree.org.  Or click this link.

Write On! Young Writers go live!

On Saturday we had our penultimate meeting for this year.  That’s me, Kidderminster Young Writers and our assistant writer Nicholas Tulloch.  Everyone arrived with a bagful of papers, more or less fully constructed into a zine.

The tables vanished under card, paper, tracing paper, staplers, glue, glitter, ribbons and inspiration.  Chocolate brownies were ingested, for stamina.

“I’ve decided to do creative risk”, said John.

Kiddi Pop Up poster The zines were to be finished and left with Kidderminster Library, all ready to be displayed on Saturday 18 June, when at 11am this absolutely brilliant group of young people will be bringing their work to the public in the library in a stream of pop-up performances.  Everyone welcome.  And it’s free.

We practised with the mic.  And we were good.

Kidderminster Write On! Young Writers is one of the many young writers’ groups created and managed by Writing West Midlands and spread right across the region.

Here’s a sneak preview of the gorgeous zines to go into the display cabinet.

 

 

Finding Treasure in the Marches

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Part of the Nummus Hoard, plough-dragged in its field

This morning 12 poets joined me and Peter Reavill, our regional Finds Liaison Officer, in a workshop exploring just some of the treasure trove of the Welsh Marches.  Peter blew us away with a mix of archaeological precision and rich storytelling – the hedge under which someone, in 1645, buried the Bitterley Hoard; the river ford where someone wrenched the Dinham Pommel from a sword, then hurled it into the waters of the Teme; the rhythmic, hour-after-hour sound of someone dressing a cutting-stone in the Paleolithic.

Finding Treasure workshop 2016 (1)
On the top floor of Ludlow Library, Peter Reavill makes handaxes new. 

Despite time being as ever too short, the poets produced the beginnings of characterful, muscular work.  Here they all are.

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Poets deep in concentration, Peter still using every minute too.

And here’s the tyg, a 17th century loving cup.  On a night in 1645, the tyg’s owner drained his eggy, clovey, honeyed posset, then stacked it with his stash of coins, some of which dated back to Elizabethan shillings.  Perhaps the Royalists were going door-to-door in search of contributions to the cause.  Our man was having none of that.  He buried it.  But never dug it up.

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The tyg, in which the Bitterley Hoard was found.  Left, the remains of a kid purse inside it.

I am so thrilled that in a mere two and a half hours the group came up with such exciting starts to poems.  More #FindingTreasure events are planned!  We’ll be publishing the poems that result!

Finding Treasure workshop 2016 (17)
Extract: A Charm Against Uncertain Borders, by Jean Atkin

 

Finding Treasure – gold, dust and detectorists

Viking troll wife pendant
For knifed into the bronze, my troll-wife
leads her horse down these same paths.
All night her long hand bridles him
with snakes to make him tame.

her long eye is my old amulet
she is the secret dark
inside of barrows

 

I’m working with Peter Reavill, the Regional Field Officer of the PAS – Portable Antiquities Scheme, looking at ways of developing a project.  I’ve written some poems about artefacts dug up here in Shropshire.  The extract above is from one of them – about a bronze Viking pendant dating from the 8th to the 11th century.  It was found near Oswestry, on the very edge of the Danelaw.  It was an object signifying cultural belonging, and was probably a good luck charm.

Our next activity though, is to offer a Poetry Workshop: Finding Treasure at which Peter will introduce some artefacts, and I will provide creative ways into writing about them.  It’s booking now – do reserve your place quickly!
flier PAS poetry JA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In which #Pen2Mic goes to #NAWE2015

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Lumiere at Durham in shiny rain

Just home from this year’s NAWE Conference in Durham, a whirlwind of exciting ideas and interesting people passionate about writing, education and imagination.  Returning on the train last night I agreed with Liz Hyder (@LondonBessie) that it could not have taken only three days. More like a week.

This year Liz and I took our new workshop Pen To Mic, up to Durham for the Conference.  The point of Pen To Mic is that workshoppers write a new poem, edit it, prepare it for performance, learn microphone skills, and then perform their work to the rest of the group, so they all become each other’s audience.  All in 90 minutes.  We think 2 hours would work better!

Pen To Mic was scheduled for 9am on Sunday morning (which took a fair bit of coffee to counteract) and we were expecting a diminished band of sleepy workshoppers.  Imagine our surprise when 22 people arrived.

What made it work of course, was that we had such a skilled group, who knew what they were doing, and really took part with generosity and gusto.  Thank you everyone for your lovely feedback!

Here’s how it went:

me leading Pen to Mic
The group at work, writing their poems in response to prompts
Pen2Mic reading to wall
Reading to the Wall, a vital part of the workshop
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Individual microphone coaching
Pen2Mic performing
And – the performance to audience
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The memorable performance of a great poem that ended with a one-word sentence: ‘Damn.’

 

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